NASHVILLE – For millions of Americans, Hank Hanegraaff is known as the "Bible Answer Man" as they listen to his daily talk-radio show. Now Hanegraaff has addressed many of the most common questions about heaven and the eternal life in his latest book, Afterlife: What You Really Want to Know About Heaven and the Hereafter.
Hanegraaff sat down with The Christian Post during a break from networking at the National Religious Broadcasters convention to discuss the book and how Christians should prepare themselves for heaven and what they can expect.
CP: How did you get started in Christian Radio?
Hanegraaff: Actually, the show has been broadcasted for over two and a half decades. It's a broadcast focused on the fact that the Christian worldview can stand up to scrutiny when poised in a respectful and gentle manner.
CP: Of the thousands of calls you receive on your show, how many deal with heaven or what happens when believers and non-believers die?
Hanegraaff: Based on the number of books on heaven, such as Heaven is for Real and others, we have been getting more and more questions about the afterlife in general. I think it's because the death rate is one per person so we're all going to make it. Based on the subset of people who call themselves Christians, there is a limited amount of perspective on the issue. Most people think we're going to go "up there" (pointing upward) and imagine that we may all end up like Casper the ghost strumming a harp on a cloud.
The biblical worldview is completely different from that. A paradise lost will become a paradise restored. God doesn't scrap things; he redeems them. So what happens to the universe and what happens to our bodies goes hand in hand. This body that is now perishable will become imperishable. We'll go through a metamorphosis and we should understand what that entails but understand principally that this is a very platonic relationship. It's these rivers; these mountains and these hills will be restored.
CP: Explain what happens when we die. Do we get our new bodies immediately? Where does our spirit go? What will happen?
Hanegraaff: I've divided the book up into three sections explaining that very thing and many misconceptions lie at the center of your question. What we do now counts for all eternity, then life after life, which is the transitional heaven, and then life after life after life, which is the eternal heaven.
So, to directly respond to you your query, if I were to die now I would be absent from the body and as a believer my spirit would be present with the Lord. However, that is not the eternal state. If you think about it this way, when a woman gives birth, she gives birth to a body/soul unity. At death there is a natural rendering of body and soul. The body goes back to the ground from which it came and the soul now is with God. Souls by definition are not physical – they are non-physical.
Souls don't have locational properties, they have relational properties. But there is a time when it's going to have locational properties again and that will be when Jesus appears a second time. When he appears again then the soul returns to the body and that body is resurrected in an immortal, imperishable state.